Holiday wine choices enhance the food, not just wash it down

After working your way through your kid’s Halloween candy, thoughts drift to turkey legs, prime rib, pork roast and almost anything other than chocolate. As the holidays loom — along with the ubiquitous fruitcake — we search for the proper accompaniment to all the rich food certain to come our way. The question at hand is how to optimize the experience, not merely wash down the figgy pudding.

By Mark Moody

Giving thanks this holiday season can be lot easier with ample choices to quaff with the roasted November bird. Zinfandel is a popular choice, and Seghesio of Sonoma Valley California has several choices starting around 20 bucks. Gewurztraminer is a slightly sweet and spicy alternative that pairs well against the big bird’s mild taste. Chateau St. Michelle of Washington State has a very affordable offering at about $ 15. Pinot noirs can be pricey, especially those from Oregon, but have to-died-for layers of flavor.

Prime rib on Christmas Day is a staple. In order to stand up to the lush juicy cut, cabernet sauvignon is a logical choice. America’s favorite red wine, cabs are available at almost any price point. Their taste is very fruity, and robust enough to stand up to any beef dish. California is awash with cabernet sauvignon and should be a safe bet. Louis Martini, Magness, and Liberty School are affordable and very available. An Italian Barolo is a more exotic choice, with an acidic yet chesty palate. An export from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, Barolos start in the mid-30s but guarantee more shock and awe at Aunt Helen’s banquet table. Oddero has an amazing selection, and remains one of Italy’s premier vintners.

Partnering with the Christmas ham might be best accomplished with one of the sweeter German style rieslings. New York’s Finger Lakes region is a famous producer, but difficult to obtain locally. Again Washington State’s Chateau St. Michelle has a very respectable riesling priced under $20.

Toasting the New Year is traditionally done with a sparkling wine. Champagne is usually the first choice that comes to mind. Grown exclusively in the French region by the same name, this wine is produced primarily from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes among others. The brut style is a medium dry choice and the biggest seller. The Italians offer prosecco, as a dry alternative and Asti, made from the white moscato grape for a sweeter sparkler.

Pork roast often is served on New Year’s Day for good luck. Fortunately chardonnay is not only America’s favorite white wine, but the heavily oaked versions pair nicely with roast pork. Originally grown in Burgundy, however, as luck would have it, California produces outstanding selections. Mega-vintner Kendall-Jackson produces a respectable and affordable chardonnay.

Dessert wines are an excellent complement to the rich holiday confections. Port is a fortified sweet red wine from Portugal. Many styles are available but marry well with anything chocolate or nutty. Taylor Fladgate is a heavy hitter in the port market. Sauterne, another French import, has a soft light amber color, and is savory with creamy desserts.

2013 Wine Favorites
Oddero Vineyards Barolo, Piedmont, Italy 2007
Antu Syrah, Rapel Valley, Chile 2010
Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Wash 2009
Pasquale Pelissero Barbaresco Bricci, San Giuliano, Italy 2008
Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, Calif. 2012
Piatelli Premium Malbec Mendoza Valley, Argentina 2009
Turley Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Calif 2011
Apothic Red Blend, California 2011

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